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Today in Austria: A roundup of the latest news on Monday

Every weekday, The Local brings you an English-language summary of the news you need to know in Austria.

Is springtime Vienna's most beautiful season? Image: Amanda Previdelli
Is springtime Vienna's most beautiful season? Image: Amanda Previdelli

Thousands attend benefit concert for Ukraine in Vienna

Thousands of people attended a benefit concert for Ukraine in Vienna Heldenplatz (Heroes’ Square)  on Sunday. Austrian stars such as Conchita Wurst performed and a speech recorded by the Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was aired. The benefit concert, which had the now familiar slogan “YesWeCare”  was organised by artist Daniel Landau.

Admission was free but people were encouraged to donate to the charities SOS Children’s Villages and Nachbar in Not (Neighbors in Need). The Austrian President Alexander van der Bellen also gave a speech, tweeting afterwards: “No child should have to flee. No child should have to experience war. The war must be stopped.”

Ministers meet to discuss refugee influx

Ministers of the Interior from across the EU are meeting today to discuss how to proceed with the huge numbers of refugees flowing out of Ukraine. According to the UN refugee agency, more than 3.8 million Ukrainians have left the country since the beginning of the war.

Ukraine has a population of more than 44 million, and more than two million refugees have been arriving in Poland alone. Of these 212,000 people have been counted in Austria, but 80 percent of these are believed to be in transit. On Saturday, 32,500 “displaced persons” had been registered in Austria, broadcaster ORF reports.

READ ALSO: How Austrian states are preparing for Ukrainian refugees

Vienna to speed up registration for Ukrainian refugees

Vienna is hoping to speed up the registration of Ukrainian refugees by purchasing new equipment such as passport readers, fingerprint scanners and computers with special data processing software.

According to the Ministry of the Interior, 95 additional recording modules arrived at the weekend and were immediately delivered to the state police departments. Vienna now has  37 registration modules rather than 27, broadcaster ORF reports.

How would banning gas and oil imports from Russia affect Austria?

A report by economists on how a ban on Russian gas and oil would affect the economy of German speaking countries is discussed in Der Standard newspaper.  It comes from a group of scientists led by Rüdiger Bachmann from the University of Notre Dame in Indiana and Moritz Schularick from the University of Bonn.

Based on its findings, in Austria an embargo on energy and raw materials would cost 3.3 percent of economic output by the end of the year, according to a calculation by the economist Christian Helmenstein for the Federation of Industry. This would cause Austria’s economy to stagnate.

However, it is not possible to model how a complete stop on gas imports would affect Austria’s economy, according to Harald Oberhofer from the Vienna University of Economics and Business. Austria gets more than 80 percent of its gas from Russia. 

Daniel Gros from the Center for European Policy Studies has also written an opinion piece in Der Standard newspaper calling for targeted energy tariffs to be put in place to lessen dependence on Russian gas.

READ ALSO: Can Austria reduce its dependency on Russian gas? 

Alles Gurgelt employees to stay in jobs in April

Employees of the Lifebrain laboratory, which carry out Vienna’s Alles Gurgelt (Everyone gargles) Covid-19 tests will not be laid off in April, the Krone newspaper reports, despite fears that 1,200 employees would be sacked as unlimited testing in Austria comes to a halt in April.

Managing Director Michael Havel  told the newspaper “Vienna Today” the company expects to be carrying out more tests in autumn. The Krone  newspaper also reports there are problems with the Alles Gurgelt tests this morning, and there may be delays in getting results.

 READ MORE: Everything that changes in Austria in April 2022

Forest fire rages in Carinthia

A forest fire is burning on the Burgstallberg mountain in the Carinthian Mölltal, around 250 firefighters from numerous fire brigades have been fighting the fire since Sunday evening: which saw almost ten hectares go up in flames in a very short period.

Farmers, two police helicopters, an ÖBB fire engine and the army are also on the scene to help.

The fire was brought under control by nightfall on Sunday, but the embers are still being extinguished, broadcaster ORF reports. There is currently a fire ban across Austria due to the drought, with large fines in place for anyone who breaks the rules. Rain is expected at the end of the week.

Trip to Israel for Austria’s Foreign and Economic Ministers

Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg and Economics Minister Margarete Schramböck (both ÖVP) are traveling to Israel today for a joint working visit.

Schallenberg will meet Israel’s Foreign Minister Jair Lapid, and Schramböck will meet Economics Minister Orna Barbivai. They hope to discuss a potential peace process with Palestine, and further cooperation in the high tech sector. 

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For members


Today in Austria: A roundup of the latest news on Monday

No more '3G' to enter Austria, swimming lakes warm up, compulsory vaccination debate returns and more news on Monday.

Today in Austria: A roundup of the latest news on Monday

No more testing or proof of vaccination to come into Austria

From today (Monday 16 May), all testing/vaccination requirements to enter Austria will be removed. It is possible to come to Austria from all countries in the world without showing a negative test or proof of vaccination.

A new entry regulation was published last week  by the Ministry of Health. The cancellation of entry checks was justified by the current epidemiological situation.

There is still the possibility for countries to be classed as virus variant areas, however at present no country is currently on the list of these areas. Should a new virus variant emerge, the obligation to test, register and quarantine could be quickly imposed again, broadcaster ORF reports.

Austria’s lakes warm up for swimming

Warm temperatures of over 30 degrees in May mean that Austria’s swimming lakes are ready for use, with temperatures exceeding the 20-degree mark in the Alte Donau in Vienna, the Aubad Tulln and the Stubenbergsee in Styria. Some Carinthian lakes are already at 19 degrees, such as Lake Faak and Lake Pressegger, broadcaster ORF reports. 

READ MORE: The best lakes and swimming spots in Austria

Nehammer unanimously elected leader of the ÖVP

As The Local reported at the weekend, Austria’s Chancellor Karl Nehammer has been formally elected leader of the conservative Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP) with 100 percent of the vote. 

The heads of the ÖVP traditionally tend to get high results in their first election as chairman. Kurz was elected party leader in 2017 with 98.7 percent of the vote. However, there has never been a 100 percent result in a first-time election until now.

READ MORE: Austria’s Nehammer formally elected party leader in unanimous vote

Compulsory vaccination law could come into force automatically in June

An ordinance suspending Austria’s compulsory vaccination law will expire at the end of May, making it possible in theory that random penalties for remaining unvaccinated could be put in place at the start of June. 

The law  was introduced in February, even though the technical requirements for it to be enacted were not in place. Before a single person was fined, the Health Minister Johannes Rauch (Greens) suspended the law with an ordinance.

To create a new ordinance or extend the existing one stopping people from being fined, Rauch must await  the report of the vaccination commission.

This will assess from a medical and legal point of view whether the Vaccination Act is suitable and useful. In a previous report of the commission, it said there were arguments for and against mandatory vaccination for those who were completely unvaccinated.

Der Standard reports there is little political support for compulsory vaccination and says there are still technical problems regarding automated fines. According to the Ministry of Health, the infrastructure should be completed in June.


Car reduction scheme stalls 
A plan to significantly reduce traffic in Vienna’s city centre will probably not be implemented as planned in 2022. Vienna wanted to set up surveillance cameras limiting access to the city’s First District by car to residents.

At present, around 50,000 cars are registered driving in and out of the historic centre every working day. 

Der Standard newspaper reports that it has information that the new regulation will not come into force this year as planned. The necessary legislation has not been passed and there are concerns about data protection.